PA’s Holiday Wish Program gives gifts to over 600 people this holiday season

08 December 2023- Cabinet members from the Shapiro Administration gathered to celebrate the 33rd Annual Holiday Wish Program, which is run by Commonwealth employees, and provides gifts for people in need across Pennsylvania. This year, the Holiday Wish Program will provide gifts to more than 600 people, including more than 150 families and 60 seniors. 

“I am so proud to have colleagues across Commonwealth agencies who take time during this season to provide some extra cheer so our fellow Pennsylvanians can have a joyous holiday,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “We can all make a difference for our friends and neighbors this holiday season by volunteering our time or donating to a favorite cause. I encourage every Pennsylvanian to consider giving back this year as they are able.”  

When a family or individual visits a local DHS County Assistance Office (CAO) to apply for benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid, CAO caseworkers identify families and older adults in need to take part in the Holiday Wish program. Holiday Wish participants select a few gifts they need or would like to receive, and state employees, private organizations, and individuals sponsor a family or individual to ensure they receive special gifts during the holiday season. Representatives from Commonwealth agencies and the Pennsylvania National Guard then gather every December to distribute these gifts to hundreds of families across Pennsylvania. 

Holiday Wish was started in 1989 by a small group of Commonwealth employees and has since grown to include hundreds of employees across the Commonwealth’s agencies, including members of the Pennsylvania National Guard and staff from the Department of Labor & Industry, who diligently inspected and delivered more than 650 stuffed toys to the Holiday Wish program this year after deeming them safe for retailOpens In A New Window.  

“Each year, we at L&I diligently inspect hundreds of stuffed toys, ensuring every child in Pennsylvania receives not just joy, but also safety in their holiday gifts. This tradition of donating our inspected toys to the Holiday Wish program has a special place in our hearts,” said Labor & Industry Secretary Nancy A. Walker. “To everyone able to give a little more this season, I urge you to embrace the spirit of giving. The joy and happiness through a simple act of kindness can lead to lifelong memories for countless Pennsylvania children.” 

“At PennDOT, engaging and connecting with communities across Pennsylvania is central to our mission,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “The Holiday Wish program exemplifies this, and I’m proud of how generously the PennDOT team – and all participating Commonwealth agencies – have supported our neighbors this holiday season.” 

“We are proud to join other state agencies and together deliver not just gifts, but holiday cheer to hundreds of Pennsylvanians through the Holiday Wish program,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “The Pennsylvania National Guard has a long history of supporting the community and this is another example of meeting the call to serve and enhancing the lives of fellow Pennsylvanians.” 

“The Department of Aging is pleased to partner with our sister agencies by providing Pennsylvanians with some holiday cheer. This time of year can be difficult for many people, especially older adults who are experiencing feelings of loneliness, depression, or isolation because of the loss of a loved one, their friends, or even the physical separation they have from their families. Through the Holiday Wish Program, we hope to make a difference in an older adult’s life by letting them know that someone cares, and we are here for them,” said Secretary of Aging Jason Kavulich. 

Additional agencies providing gifts and resources to the Holiday Wish program include the Governor’s Office, the Office of the Auditor General, the departments of Aging, Community and Economic Development, Corrections, Health, State, and Transportation, as well as the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.